Thursday, May 17, 2018

Making Sense of Russian Political Ambiguities

THE SAKER • MAY 17, 2018
Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin
Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin
Introduction: the world is not Hollywood
The past couple of weeks saw a number of truly tectonic events taking place simultaneously in the US, in Russia, in Israel, in Syria, in Iran and in the EU. I think that it would also be reasonable to say that most of those who opposed the AngloZionist Empire have felt feelings ranging from mild disappointment to total dismay. I sure did not hear many people rejoicing, but if somebody was, they were in the minority (uncharacteristically, Mikhail Khazin, for example). These reactions are normal, we all form expectations which can be, and often are, disappointed. Still, even when the news is clearly bad it is helpful to keep a number of things in mind.
First, people, countries and events are not frozen in time. They are processes. Processes, by definition, are subject to change, evolution and (even radical) changes in direction.
Second, each process carries within itself the seeds of its own contradiction. This is what makes processes dynamic.
Third, people are imperfect. Even good people make mistakes, sometimes with tragic consequences. Yet it would be wrong to separate them all into either “infallible hero” or “abject villain and loser”. In fact, I would argue that any kind of mistake, especially a serious one, carries within itself its own contradiction which, in turn, can end up “energizing” the original process by creating a different set of circumstances.
All this is to say that the real world is not like Hollywood when the outcome of the story is only 90 minutes or so away. The real world is at war with the Empire and in this war, like in any other wars, there are mistakes and losses on both sides Both sides make mistakes and the results of these mistakes affect the future course of the war.
I would argue that in the past couple of weeks Russia suffered not one, but several PR disasters. I would also argue that the Zionists have had some tremendous PR successes. I will list them further below, but I want to suggest to you that PR disasters and successes are not quite the same as real-world, tangible victories. Furthermore, PR disasters and successes can sometimes be useful, as they reveal to the world previously overlooked, or underestimated, weaknesses. Finally, PR disasters and successes, while existing mostly in the realm of perceptions, can have a real-world effect, sometimes a dramatic one.
The usual chorus of Putin-haters who immediately declared final victory is completely mistaken and their reaction is the reflection of an infantile understanding of the complex world we live in. In the real world, a person like Putin can, and usually does, commit mistakes (PR and real-world mistakes) and the enemy can mount very effective counter-attacks. But the outcome of the war is not decided on a single battle. Furthermore, in politics, like in regular warfare, tactical mistakes and successes do not at all imply operational or, even less so, strategic successes. During WWII the German military usually performed better than the Soviet one on the tactical level, but the Soviets were superior on the operational and strategic levels. We all know how that war ended. If you want to read a good analysis and debunking of the “Putin caved in” nonsense, I recommend the article ”Russia Betrayed Syria”: Geopolitics through the eyes of a fearful “pro-Russia” Westerner” by Ollie Richardson.
The other extreme is to deny, against all evidence, that there is a problem or that mistakes have been made. That kind of stubborn flag-waving is actually unhelpful as mistakes are inevitable, and the first step towards mitigating them is to recognize them. The extreme version of that kind of flag-waving (pseudo-)patriotism is to denounce a person brining up problems as a traitor or a defeatist.
It is with all this in mind that I would like to revisit what has taken place and try to gauge what the real-world consequences of these PR events might be.
Part one: Putin disappoints

Quick summary: Putin re-appointed Medvedev, appointed Alexei Kudrin as Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of Russia and Vitalii Mutko as Deputy Prime Minister in charge of construction, he then hosted Bibi Netanyahu in the Kremlin while the latter bombed Syria right before, during and after Netanyahu’s visit. Finally, there is the disgraceful zig-zag about the S-300 for Syria: first, yes we will do it, then, no we won’t. All these events can, and should, be carefully analyzed and explained, but I don’t think that it makes sense to deny that most people feel a sense of disappointment over it all (except, of course, the bright geniuses who will claim that they knew all along that Putin was “fake”, but this is precisely the “Hollywood-thinking” types on whom any real analysis would be lost in the first place).
I would argue that even those who think that this is no big deal and that nothing terrible happened will not, if they are honest, deny that Putin must have known, without any doubt, that his decisions would be unpopular with the Russian public and that, very uncharacteristically for him, he deliberately chose to ignore his only public opinion and favor other considerations. That is something very new and, I think, something important.
There are roughly two camps vying for power inside the Kremlin: I call them the Atlantic Integrationists and the Eurasian Sovereignists. The former group is a pure product of the 1990s. We can think of them as “liberals”, IMF/Washington Consensus/WTO/WB types; folks who came to power thanks to the regime of oligarchs which ran Russia from about 1990 to 2000 and which was both deeply pro-American and which had extremely close ties to Israel and the various political Jewish and Zionist organizations in the West. The latter group is primarily a product of the armed forces and the security services. The “bridge” between the two is, by the way, the Russian military industrial complex in which both groups are represented. Unsurprisingly, most Russian “elites” (defined simply as people who made their fortune or, at least, a good living in the 1990s and after) support the Atlantic Integrationists, while most “regular” Russian people overwhelmingly support the Eurasian Sovereignists. This is why Putin is so popular and Medvedev never was. What is interesting is to look into how these groups relate to Israel and Zionism.
In a past article, I have already looked at the complex and multi-layered relationship between Israel and Russia. At this point we need to look a little deeper and see how each of these groups relates to Israel and Zionism.
Atlantic Integrationists: unsurprisingly, they are pro-Israeli to the hilt. For them, Israel is a totally normal country, even to be admired, as they all have personal/family and business ties to Israelis in Israel and in the US. While there is no official version of AIPAC in Russia, let’s just say that the ADL would give the Atlantic Integrationists a perfect score for loyalty and service.
Eurasian Sovereignists: here, things are much more complicated. Some Eurasian Sovereignists are profoundly anti-Zionist ideologically, while others don’t really care. But even for those who have no love for Israel, or who are deeply opposed to the Zionist influence in Russia in the 1990s or even today (especially in the Russian media), do not necessarily find it useful to say much about it. Why? Primarily because they think, and I would say correctly so, that being pro-Russian (in the sense of patriotic and wanting a truly sovereign Russia) does not have to entail being anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish. Furthermore, there are, and have always been, patriotic Russian Jews who have been an integral part of the Russian culture and history. Just like I often write that for Russians, Muslims are not “aliens” in the way many westerners perceive them, and Jews are not “aliens” for Russians either. This is why you can often meet the following Russian type: they will bitch and complain about all the Jewish “crooks and politicians”, but have “good” Jews as their closest and best friends. This is not blindness at all, this is the expression of the fact that to loathe an ideology is one thing, but to collectively feel hostility towards a group of people you know very well is a completely different proposition. I will never cease to repeat it: Russia is, has always been, and still remains a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society in which the presence of “others” simply is a fact of life.
Then there is the WWII factor, which the Israelis and Russians Zionists have been extremely skilled at exploiting to the max: Russians and Jew are united in a common memory of the horrors the Nazis inflicted upon them and they also often sense that West Europeans and Americans are, well, maybe not quite as sincerely sympathetic to their plight even if political correctness forces them to pretend to be. As a result, you will find that most anti-Zionist Russians, while surely not “ADL compatible” in their views, hate the Nazis and everything western racism stands for no less than Jews would. If fact, when faced with the modern wave of rabid russophobia, many Russians say “we are the new Jews”, meaning that everything evil on the planet is blamed on them regardless of fact or logic. Like it or not, but that common memory does bind Russians and Jews in a profound way.
I can already imagine the rage and disgust my words above will trigger in western Jew-haters for whom the world is split into two groups: Jew-haters (good) and all those who “sold out” to “the Jews” (as if there was such monad as “the Jews”). All I can tell them is this: don’t project your reductionist world view on others, especially not on Russia. If you do, you will never “get” Russia and you will be stuck with the kind of proverbial nonsense like “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”.
Part two: The Empire Strikes back
The past couple of years have been terrible for the Zionists, both in the US and in the rest of the world. First, there was the crushing defeat of their candidate in the US and the election of a candidate they rabidly hated. Then there was the Russian military intervention in Syria which prevented them from overthrowing the last secular “resistance” regime in the Arab world. In Russia, “their” Atlantic Integrationists were slowly but surely losing power and all in all, the western sanctions turned out to be a blessing for Russia. Putin’s popularity was soaring to new heights and the the global “Zionist house” was on fire. In the US, the Zionists counter-attacked with lightening speed and with a devastating effectiveness, breaking Trump in about 30 days (as shown by Trump’s betrayal of Flynn and later Bannon). After that, Trump made appeasing AIPAC his full-time job.
But that left another problem: while the US was re-taken under control, Russia, in the meantime, had succeeded in developing the capabilities to completely negate the entire US ABM system, to make much of the surface fleet obsolete and severely to impair the ability of US airpower to operate in airspace contested by modern Russian air defenses. In other words, in purely military terms, this was “game, set, match for Russia”.
[Sidebar: to those shocked by this statement and who would dismiss this as “Russian propaganda” I will submit the following: US military power is predicated on the following:
1.     The ability to deploy a carrier strike group anywhere on the planet.
2.     The ability to protect that carrier strike group from any major counter-attack.
3.     The ability to strike any country in the world with enough missile and airstrikes to break its will to continue to fight.
4.     The complete and total control of the skies (air supremacy). US forces simply never train for a combat scenario where they don't control the skies or, even less so, when their enemy does.
5.     The very strong belief that no enemy would dare attack major overseas US bases.
6.     The very strong, quasi religious, belief that US military technology is superior.
7.     The absolute certitude that the US mainland would never be hit in a counter-attack.
None of the previous beliefs are based in reality anymore and, in fact, their opposite is true. This is why when dealing with a near-peer or peer enemy the US armed forces are more or less useless. The only very notable exception is the US nuclear triad and the US submarine fleet. The current situation in Syria (and by implication, Iran and Russia) is finally gradually bringing this new reality to the awareness of US decision-makers and military commanders.]
This is why Russia, albeit with only a tiny contingent, succeeded in turning the tide of the war in Syria and even now presents the AngloZionists with a frustrating challenge: a (comparatively) tiny contingent of Russian forces completely derailed the Empire’s plans for the entire Middle-East: not only is there a real change of peace breaking out in Syria, but the situation is far from having the Takfiris and Shia killing each other in Syria and Lebanon (a key part of the Israeli plan for the region). Hezbollah, Iran and the Syrians are now in a victorious coalition on the ground with the “Axis of Kindness” forces roundly defeated.
So the Israelis decided on a simple, very effective and very dangerous counter offensive plan: 1) start a war between the US and Iran by creating an acute crisis as a result of the US reneging on its legal obligations and 2) bait Iran into a counter-attack in response to Israel air operations against Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in Syria. But for that plan to succeed, Russia needed to stay out.
So far, at least, it looks like the Israelis have convinced the Russians to stay out. But is that perception really well founded?
Part three: factors inhibiting Russia
First and foremost, as I have already explained in great detail in the past, Russia has absolutely no legal or moral obligation to support, protect, arm, train or otherwise assist anybody in the Middle-East. None. Russia has already done more for Syria than the entire Arab/Muslim world combined with the notable exception of Iran and Hezbollah. As for the Arab/Muslim world, it has never done anything for Russia and still is doing nothing. So those who like to whine about Russia not doing enough simply have no case whatsoever.
Second, the Russian air defense and air forces in Syria have only one mission: to protect the Russian task force in Syria. Whoever got the idea that Russia is supposed to shoot down Israeli aircraft or missiles over Syria has not been paying attention to public Russian statements about this. The notion that the Russian task force in Syria is there to engage US/NATO/CENTCOM forces is just as ridiculous.
Third, and contrary to a frequently held misconception, the Syrian government, Iran, Hezbollah and Iran have different agendas in the Middle-East. Yes, they are de-factoallies. They also have the same enemies, they often work together, but they all think of their own interests first. In fact, at least in the case of Iran and Russia, there are clear signs that there are several ‘camps’ inside the Russian and Iranian government and the ruling elites which have different agendas (I highly recommend Thierry Meyssan’s recent articles on this topic here and here). To think that any or all of them will instantly come to the defense of any one of them is supremely naïve, especially when the aggressor (Israel) is backed by the full power of an already warmongering Empire run amok.
Fourth, the sad reality is that Russia, unlike Iran, never took a principled position concerning the nature and behavior of the state of Israel. I very much deplore that, and I consider it a shame, but I hasten to add that this shame is shared by every single country on the planet except Iran, Bolivia and, maybe, to some extent Turkey. Not to excuse anything, but only to explain, there is very little awareness amongst Russians about the true nature and behavior of the Israelis, and most of what makes it to the media is hopelessly pro-Israeli (hence the almost constant presence of the likes of Iakov Kedmi, Avigdor Eskin, Evgenii Satanovskii and other Israeli agents – they don’t even really bother to deny it – on Russian TV). The Russian media, especially the TV stations, could easily get a “ADL seal of approval”. Simply put: the vast majority of Russians don’t feel that the plight of the Palestinians or the constant Israeli attacks on neighboring countries is their problem.
[Sidebar: such a view can appear very self-centered until you recall the kind of “gratitude” Russia got in the past from her former interventions. There are countries out there who exist only because Russia decided that they should exist and which today are members of NATO. I won't even go into the “Slavic brotherhood” or, for that matter, “Orthodox brotherhood” nonsense. The only people with whom Russia truly has a strong bond are the Serbs. The rest of them were more than happy to backstab Russia as soon as convenient. Thus history has taught Russia a painful lesson: give up on any naïve notions of gratitude or brotherhood. Very sad, but true. Today, even countries like Kazakhstan, Armenia or Georgia are showing a very ambivalent (and even ambiguous) attitude towards Russia. As a result the idea that Russia owes some form of protection to anybody out there has almost no support in Russia.]
Fifth, even the Eurasian Sovereignist’s analysts and media in Russia have this absolutely amazing “blind spot” about Israel and the Zionist ideology: I think of analysts whom I sincerely admire and respect (like Sergei Mikheev or Ruslan Ostashko) and whose analysis is superb on pretty much everything and who simply never mention the power and influence of what is clearly a powerful pro-Israeli lobby inside Russia, especially in the Russian media (even when they mention the power of the Israel lobby in the US). Considering how different the tone of much of the Russian Internet is, the only explanation I have for this situation is that any public anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist statements are career-terminators in Russia (we also clearly see the same phenomenon at work with RT and Sputnik). You can completely forget about any Russian religious figures speaking up, and that goes both for the Orthodox and Muslims: they all take their orders from the Kremlin and have no personal opinion on anything (I am only talking about the “official” senior religious leaders – the rank and file faithful do not display this type of behavoir).
Sixth, there are plenty of people in Russia who fully realize two simple things: first, a war between Iran and the Empire would be disastrous for the Empire (and therefore great for Russia) and, second, the Iranians are also “problematic” allies at best who have their own version of “Atlanticists” (remember the “Gucci Revolution”?) and “Sovereignists”, which means that tensions, or warfare, between Iran and the US would be greatly advantageous for the anti-US camp inside Iran (just like the rabid russophobia of western politicians did more to re-elect Putin than any of his own campaign rhetoric). To put it crudely, if the Israelis are dumb enough to attack the Iranians, and if the Americans are subservient enough to Israel to join into the fight – why should Russia take great risks and openly stand in the way? Finally, any conflict with Iran (which will most likely also involve the KSA) will have oil prices skyrocket. What do you think this will do to the Russian economy?
Seventh, the war which Israel is currently waging against Iran and pro-Iranian forces in Syria is entirely a symbolic war. Even the Pantsir which was recently destroyed by the Israelis (with the usual pro-Israeli PR campaign) was not even on combat alert: the unit was not even camouflaged and its crew was standing around and smoking. The Israelis are masters at making this look all very impressive and heroic, but in military terms, this is nonsense: they clearly hit a unit which was not even part of the action (whatever that “action” was).
The basic rule of warfare still remains valid today: unless you can put boots on the ground, your efforts will never have a decisive military effect. And thank God for the fact that nobody in the “Axis of Kindness” has any credible ground forces; not the Israelis (remember 2006?); not the Saudis (look at Yemen); and most definitely not the US (when is the last time they beat somebody capable of resisting?). That is why the AngloZionist Empire always tries to use proxies like the Kurds or the “good terrorists” to fight on its behalf. Thus the Russian military specialists fully understand that even if the Israelis bombed Syria for the next several months, they would not be able to change the fundamental correlation of forces on the ground. Hence, the Israeli strikes are mostly about PR.
Still, for all these reasons, and more, we all have to come to terms with the fact that Russia is what I would call a “limited actor” in the Middle-East. I have been saying from day 1 – when some were having visions of Russian airborne divisions (supported by MiG-31s!) landing near Damascus – that “the Russians are not coming” (see herehereherehere and here). Furthermore, I tried to explain that the Russians are under no obligation whatsoever to protect or save anyone anywhere, including in the Middle-East (see here). Finally, I tried to explain that the Russian-Israeli relationship is a multi-layered and complex one (see here) and that Putin is facing some tremendous internal opposition which he has failed to successfully tackle (see here). But trying to describe a complex reality is often a futile task in a world in which simple, black and white, binary-kind of representations are the rule and where every complex argument is immediately turned into a long list of straw-man misrepresentations. This is still very much the case with the latest developments.
Those who say that “Putin sold out” are wrong, but so are those who think that “the Russians are coming” to save anybody. It is just not going to happen. Russia will not fight a war against Israel (unless she is attacked first) and Russia will only support Iranian operations and policies insofar as the Iranians negotiate a deal with the Russian and coordinate their efforts. As soon as Iran, or Hezbollah, make a move without prior consultations with Moscow, they will be on their own to deal with the consequences.
Part four: is Russia caving in to Western and Israeli pressure?
Setting aside the issue of the Russian role in the Middle-East, there remains the issue of why Putin failed to deliver on what was clearly a mandate of the Russian people to get rid of at least of the most hated personalities in the Russian government. Most folks in the West know how toxic Kudrin is, but the promotion of Mutko is nothing short of amazing too. This is the man who is most to blame for the gross mismanagement of the entire “Russia doping scandal” operation and who is absolutely despised for his incompetence. Now he is in charge of construction. There is even a good joke about this: Putin put Mutko in charge of the construction industry because the Russian construction market badly needs some doping. Funny, sure, but only so far. When I see Rogozin removed for his “poor management” (now put in charge of the Russian rocket and space industry) and Mutko promoted, I wonder if they have all gone crazy in the Kremlin.
We can all argue ad nauseam why exactly this has happened, but let’s first agree on one simple fact: Putin has failed to purge the Atlantic Integrationists. The big expectation of him getting a strong personal mandate from the people and then finally kicking them out of the Kremlin has, alas, been proven completely unfounded. There are a couple of interesting explanations out there such as:
·         Objectively, the Medvedev government has done a very decent, if not good job, with the economy. True, some/many believe that mistakes were made, that there were better economic policies available, but it would be hard to argue that the government completely failed. In fact, there are some pretty strong arguments which indicate that the Medvedev government (see this article discussing this in detail and it’s machine translation here and this article and its machine translation here)
·         Putin’s very ambitious internal economic growth program needs the support of the interests represented by the Atlantic Integrationists. In fact, internal development and economic growth are the core of his very ambitious political program. Possibly not the best time to purge the Kremlin from those who represent the interests of Russian big business.
·         The Medvedev “clan” has been weakened (see here for details) and now that it has been put on a much shorter “technocratic” leash, it is far less dangerous. In fact, it has been been subdued by Putin and his allies. Lavrov and Shoigu are both staying, by the way.
·         Trump’s reckless behavior is deeply alienating the Europeans to whom Putin is now presenting negotiation partners which they would trust (imagine Merkel and Rogozin in the same room – that would not go well!). Check out this excellent article by Frank Sellers in The Duran looking at the immense potential for Russia-EU cooperation.
Meh. I am personally unconvinced. How can Putin say that he wants serious reforms while keeping the exact same type of people in command? If indeed the Medvedev government did such a great job, then why is there any need for such major reforms? If Putin’s power base is indeed, as I believe it to be, in the people, then why is he trying to appease the financial elites by catering to their interests and agenda? Most crucially, how can Russia free herself from the financial and economic grip of the Empire when the Empire’s 5th column agents are (re-)appointed to key positions? And in all of Russia was there really nobody more qualified than Mutko or Kudrin to appoint to these positions?
Of course, there always this “Putin knows something you don’t” but I have always had a problem with that kind of logic which is essentially an open-ended universal cop-out. I hope that I am wrong, but to me this does strongly suggest that Putin is on the retreat, that he has made a major mistake and that the Empire has scored a major victory. And I will gladly admit that I have yet to hear an explanation which would explain this, never mind offer one of my own.
On the external front, has Russia caved in to Israeli pressure? Ruslan Ostashko offers a very good analysis of why this is hardly the case: (I don’t necessarily agree with his every conclusion, but he does make a very good case:
Yes, Netanyahu *did* with his repeated strikes on Syria, thumb his nose at Putin (that famous Israeli chutzpah at work for you!), and yes, Putin wining and dining Netanyahu was a painful sight and a PR-disaster. But on substance, did Israel get Russia to “betray Iran”? No, and not because the Russians are so heroically principled, but because Israel really has nothing to offer Russia. All Israel has is a powerful pro-Israel lobby inside Russia, that is true. But the more they use that lobby the more visible it becomes, the more questions at least Eurasian Sovereignists will ask.
The Israelis sure don’t want to give the impression that the run Russia the way they run the US, and Netanyahu’s reception in the Kremlin recently has already raised a lot of eyebrows and the impression that Putin caved in to the demands of this arrogant bastard are not helping Putin, to put it mildly. A lot of Russian analysts (Viktor Baranets, Maksim Shevchenko, Leonid Ivashev) wonder what kind of arguments Netanyahu used with Putin, and the list of possibilities is an outright uninspiring one.
Part five – another truism: there is a difference between excellent, good, average, bad and terrible
Even if the situation in Russia has changed for the worse, this is hardly a reason to engage in the usual “Putin sold out” hysteria or to declare that “Russia caved in”. Even when things are bad, there is still a huge difference between bad and worse. As of right now, Putin is not only the best possible person to be the President of Russia, Russia also continues to be the objective leader of the resistance to the Empire. Again, the black-and-white “Hollywood” type of mindset entirely misses the dynamic nature of what is going on. For example, it is quite clear to me that a new type of Russian opposition is slowly forming. Well, it always existed, really – I am talking about people who supported Putin and the Russian foreign policy and who disliked Medvedev and the Russian internal policies. Now the voice of those who say that Putin is way too soft in his stance towards the Empire will only get stronger. As will the voices of those who speak of a truly toxic degree of nepotism and patronage in the Kremlin (again, Mutko being the perfect example). When such accusations came from rabid pro-western liberals, they had very little traction, but when they come from patriotic and even nationalist politicians (Nikolai Starikov for example) they start taking on a different dimension. For example, while the court jester Zhirinovskii and his LDPR party loyally supported Medvedev, the Communist and the Just Russia parties did not. Unless the political tension around figures like Kudrin and Medvedev is somehow resolved (maybe a timely scandal?), we might witness the growth of a real opposition movement in Russia, and not one run by the Empire. It will be interesting to see if Putin’s personal ratings will begin to go down and what he will have to do in order to react to the emergence of such a real opposition.
Much will depend on how the Russian economy will perform. If, courtesy of Trump’s megalomaniacal policies towards Iran and the EU, Russia’s economy receives a massive injection of funds (via high energy prices), then things will probably stabilize. But if the European leaders meekly cave in and join the sanctions against Iran and if the US succeeds in imposing even further sanctions on Russia, then the Medvedev government will face a serious crisis and the revival of the Russian economy promised by Putin will end up in an embarrassing failure and things could also go from bad to even worse. As for right now, our always courageous Europeans are busy handing the latest Eurovision prize to an Israeli (Eurovision prizes are always given to countries the EU leaders want to support) while the self-same Israelis “celebrate” the new US Embassy in Jerusalem by murdering 55 Palestinians (and promised to kill many more). So let’s just say that I am not very hopeful that the Europeans will grow a spine, some balls, a brain or, least of all, acquire some moral fiber anytime soon. But maybe they will be greedy enough to reject some of the most outrageous US demands? Maybe. Hopefully. After all, the European supine subservience to the US has to have cost the EU billions of dollars already…
Part six: dealing with the S-300 fiasco
The entire S-300 business for Syria has been an ugly mess but, again, more in the PR realm than in the real world. The constant “we will deliver, no we won’t, yes we will, no we won’t” creates a terrible impression. The explanations for this zig-zag make things only worse. Let’s take a look at what those who do not disapprove of this zig zag are saying. Their arguments go more or less as follows.
·         The S-300s would place the Israeli Air Force at risk not only over Syria, but also over Lebanon and even Israel. This is overkill because Russia never moved into Syria to fight a war against Israel. So the entire idea of delivering S-300s to Syria was a bad idea in the first place.
·         Syria does not really need S-300s. Lavrov and others mention the S-300s as a threat (because the Israelis really fear these systems), but in reality what Syria needs are Buk-M2E (see analysis in Russian and it’s machine translation here).
·         The Russians made a deal with Israel and in exchange for the non-delivery of the S-300s (see analysis in Russian here and the machine translation here) they are getting something very tangible: Israel will stop supporting the “good terrorists” in Syria thereby making it much easier for Damascus to finish them off.
I don’t like these arguments very much except for the 2nd one. First, I do agree that the Buk-M2E is a very modern and capable system with some advantages over the S-300 in the Syrian context, but I would still add that the infamous sentence “Syria has got all it needs” is an absolutely terrible and ridiculous statement (read Marko Marjanović devastating critique of it in his article Israel Took out a Syrian Pantsir Air Defense Unit, S-200 Radars. Russia: ‘No S-300 Transfer, Syria Has All It Needs’” for Russia Insider). I think that this “Syria has all it needs” is yet another of these self-inflicted PR disasters and an absolutely ridiculous statement until you take it one step deeper.
So, if by “Syria has all it needs” you mean “Syria has no need for any other help” or “the Syrian air defenses can deal with any Israeli or US attack” – then this is total nonsense. Agreed. But if you just rephrase it and say “Syria has all the types of weapons it needs”, then I think that this is basically true. By far the single most important air defense system for the Syrians is the Pantsir-S1, not the S-300 or any other system.
As early as June of last year I wrote a column for the Unz Review entitled “Russia vs. America in Syria” in which I had a section entitled “Forget the S-300/S-400, think Pantsir”. I wrote that at a time when most observers were paying no attention to the Pantsir at all, and the entire world seemed obsessed with the S-300 and S-400s. I still believe that the Pantsir is the key to the outcome of the struggle for the Syrian airspace. But Syria, and Iran, need many more of them. Basically, the ideal situation is numerous Russian, Iranian and Syrian Pantsirs all over Syria, all of them integrated with already existing Russian long radar capabilities and supported by modern electronic warfare. With enough Pantsirs deployed and on full alert (not like the one the Israelis recently destroyed) and fully integrated into a single air defense network, the Syrians would be able to mount a very robust air defense capability, at a relatively cheap cost, without offering the Israelis any high value and lucrative targets.
Pantsirs can deal with most of the US and Israeli threats even if, unlike their S-300/S-400 counterparts, they cannot engage aircraft at long distance (hence the suggestion to deploy some Buk-M2E’s to approximate that capability). The truth is that S-300s were never designed to operate more or less autonomously or to intercept cruise missiles or bombs. Yes, they *can* do that, but they were designed to deal with long range high value targets and within a multi-layered system which included many other systems, such as the Buks, Tors, Pantsirs and even Iglas and Verbas MANPADs. That multi-layered air defense system is currently absent in Syria and would take a lot of time and money to deploy. In contrast the Pantsirs can function completely autonomously, can detect any target up to 50km away, track and engage it 20km away, protect itself and others with its 30mm guns up to 3km away. Pantsirs can even do that while moving up to 30km/h on rough terrain. This makes it an extraordinarily effective and survivable air defense system, which is relatively easy to hide, deploy and engage with no warning for the enemy. By the way, the Pantsir can also use both its 30mm canons and its missiles against ground targets, including tanks. No current air defense system can boast such a combination of capabilities.
Russia needs to deliver as many of those Pantsir-S1 systems to Syria as physically possible. A large number of Pantsir’s in Syria would present Israel and the US with a far bigger headache than a few S-300s. Currently there is something in the range of 40-60 of such Pantsir’s in Syria. This is far from enough considering the magnitude of the threat and the capabilities of the threat. That number needs to be at least doubled.
However, and regardless of the real-world technical and military aspects of the issue, the Russian zig-zags gave the world a terrible impression: the Israelis attack a Russian ally, then the Russian promise to do something about it, then Netanyahu goes to Russia, and Putin meekly caves in. This is all a massive self-inflicted political faceplant and yet another major mistake by Putin and other Russian leaders.
Frankly, the main Russian mistake here was to *ever* mention S-300s deliveries to the Syrians.
Part Seven: the lessons from the Divine Victory of 2006 – survival is victory
In 2006 Hezbollah inflicted a massive and most humiliating defeat upon Israel. And yet, there is some pretty good evidence that it all began by a mistake. Not by Israel, by Hezbollah. Check out this now often forgotten statement made by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah:
“We did not think, even one per cent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not”
Amazing, no? Hassan Nasrallah spoke these words after Hezbollah’s superb victory against the “invincible Tsahal”. The truth is that Hezbollah had underestimated the violence and magnitude of the Israeli attack. Not only that, but Israel did not lose a single inch of its territory while all of Lebanon, not just the south, was viciously bombed and scores of civilians died. Hezbollah did destroy a few “indestructible” Merkava tanks and almost sank the Israeli Navy’s flagship. But compared to the damage and pain inflicted by the Israelis, this was nothing. Even Hezbollah’s missiles had a comparatively small effect on the Israeli population (mostly just the typical Israeli panic). And yet, even if politicians did not want to admit it, it was as clear as can be for both sides: Hezbollah had won a “Divine Victory” while the Israelis had suffered the worst defeat in their history. Why? For a very simple reason: Hezbollah survived.
That’s it and that’s crucial. Olmert and his goons had set out to destroy Hezbollah (or, at least, disarm it). This is what Trump will probably try to do to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and this is what the AngloZionist Empire is trying to do to Russia: eliminate it.
Once the goals are thus defined, then the definition of victory is also obvious: surviving. That’s it.
For Hezbollah, Iran or Russia to defeat Israel, the US or the entire Empire, there is no need to plant a flag on the enemy’s main symbolic building like what Soviet soldiers did in Germany. All they need to do to win is simply to survive because the other’s sides survival is predicated upon their elimination, it’s really that simple. Israel cannot claim victory as long as Hezbollah exists, the US cannot claim world Hegemony if Iran openly defies it, and the AngloZionist Empire cannot clain world hegemony over the our planet as long as the Russian civilizational realm openly challenges it. So while all the talk about the Iranians wanting to “wipe Israel off the map” is just a typical ziomedia invention, it is true that by their very existence Hezbollah, Iran and Russia do represent an existential threat to Israel, the US and the Empire.
This is the biggest and the fatal weakness of the AngloZionist Empire: its survival depends on the colonization or destruction of every other country out there. Every independent country, whether big and powerful, or small and weak, represents an unacceptable challenge to the hegemony of the “indispensable nation” and the “chosen people”, which now try to rule over us all. This might well be the ultimate example of Hegelian dialectics at work in geopolitics: an Empire whose power generates it’s own demise. Many empires have come and gone in history, but the globalized world we live in, this dialectical contradiction is tremendously potentialized by the finite conditions in which empires have to operate.
Conclusion one: support for Putin and Russia must only be conditional
Over the past few years, Putin and Russia haters were predicting doom and gloom and all sorts of betrayals (or Novorussia, Syria, Iran, etc.) by Putin and Russia. Then time passed and all their predictions proved false. Instead of just talking, the Russians took action which proved the nay-sayers wrong. This time however, the Russians said and did a number of things which gave *a lot* of fuel to the Putin-haters and the only way to undo that is to take real action to prove them wrong. Right now as a result of these self-inflicted PR-disasters Russia looks very bad, even inside Russia were many Putin supporters are confused, worried and disappointed.
Externally, the Syrian and, especially, the Iranians need to come to terms with the fact that Russia is an imperfect ally, one which sometimes can help, but one which will always place its personal interests above any other consideration. In a personal email to me Eric Zuesse wrote “I think that Putin and Netanyahu are negotiating how far Israel can go and what Russia can accept — and what cooperation each will provide to the other — drawing the red lines of acceptability, for each side”. I think that he is spot on, but I also think that Putin is wrong in trying to make a deal with Israel, especially if a deal is at the expense of Iran. Ostashko is right. Objectively Israel has very little to offer Russia. But if this kind of collaboration between Russia and Israel continues, especially if Iran is attacked, then we will know that the Israel lobby inside Russia is behind these policies which go counter to the Russian national interest. We will soon find out.
In the meantime, Lavrov can’t try to get a deal going with Israel and, at the same time, whine about the “US Plan on Arab Troops Deployment in Syria ‘Sovereignty Violation’”! How about the never-ending violation by Israel of Syria’s sovereignty? How it is less repugnant than the one being perpetrated by the US? Are such statements not fundamentally hypocritical?
We can observe a paradox here: Putin has criticized the evil immorality of the western society and imperial policies many times (most famously in Munich and at the UN). But Putin has never said anything about the evil immorality of the state of Israel. And yet Israel is the center of gravity, the nexus, of the entire AngloZionist Empire, especially since the Neocons turned Trump into their subservient lackey. In this, and in so many other areas, Russia needs to follow the example of Iran whose leaders have shown far more morality and principled policies in spite of Iran being much smaller and comparatively weaker than Russia.
In 2006 a thousand men or so of Hezbollah dared to defy the entire AngloZionist Empire (the US was, as always, backing Israel to the hilt) and they prevailed. Russian soldiers have shown time and again, including recently in Syria, they they have the same type of courage. But Russian politicians really seem to be of a much more tepid and corruptible type, and there is always the risk that Putin might gradually become less of an officer and more of a politician. And this, in turn, means that those of us who oppose the Empire and support Putin and Russia must imperatively make that support conditional upon a clearly stated set of moral and spiritual principles, not on a “my country right or wrong” kind of loyalty or, even less so, on a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of fallacy. Should Putin continue in his apparent attempts to appease the Israelis a new type of internal opposition to his rule might gain power inside Russia and new internal tensions might be added to the already existing exernal ones.
Right now Putin still has a lot of “credibility capital” left in spite of his recent mistakes. However, Putin recent decisions have raised a lot of unpleasant questions which must be answered and will so in time. In the meantime, as they say in the US, “hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and settle for anything in the middle”. The Scripture also warns us not to make idols of leaders: “Trust not in princes, nor in the children of men, in whom there is no safety” (Ps 145:3 LXX). The worldly evil we are fighting, today in the shape of the AngloZionist Empire, is but a manifestation of a much deeper, spiritual evil: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). The young men and women from the Shia movement Amal got it right when they chose the name “Party of God” for their movement when they created Hezbollah in 1985. And Iran was right when it became an Islamic Republic: if we want to defeat the Empire we need to always let spiritual matters and moral crieria remain above any of our “pragmatic” worldly political considerations or national/ethnic loyalties: that is how we can defeat those who place a dollar value on absolutely everything they see in their narrow materialistic worldview.
Conclusion two: the quest for “Russian values”
Russian political ambiguities are the direct result of the fact that Russia, as whole, has yet to define what “Russian values” really are. The historical Russia was founded on Patristic Christianity and the Roman civilizational model and the Soviet Union on Marxism-Leninism. The 1990s marked the total triumph of materialism run amok. But unlike Hezbollah or Iran, the “New Russia” (as I like to call it) is not based on anything other than a Constitution written mostly by US advisors and their proxies and a general opposition to the western civilizational model (especially since 2014). Being against something is not an inspiring, or even tenable, political or moral stance (as the White Guards discovered during the Russian civil war). Furthermore, in her confrontation with an AngloZionist Empire which stands for absolutely nothing besides base instincts, Russia needs to stand *for* something, not just against something else. As long as Russia will not firmly define and proclaim a set of spiritual/moral values she stands for, the current zigs-zags will continue and Russian policies will prove to be inconsistent, at best.
[Sidebar: here I want to contrast the Russian society at large with the Russian armed forces who, besides having a lot of good equipment, have a very strong and clear ethos and a rock solid understanding and clarity about what they stand for. This is why Russian soldiers have consistently and spontaneously been willing to sacrifice their lives. The Russian civilian society still lacks that kind of clarity, and Russian politicians, who are no better in Russia than elsewhere, often make use of that. The Russian armed forces are also the one institution with the strongest historical memory and the deepest roots in Russian history. I would argue that they are the only institution in modern Russia whose roots truly go back to before the 1917 Revolution and even much further back than that. As descendant of “White Russians” myself I have always found it uncanny and, frankly, amazing how much closer I have felt to Russian military officers than to Russian civilians. To me it often feels as if there were two types of Russians simultaneously coexisting: the “new Russian” type (still in the process of being defined) and the military officer corps (Soviet or post-Soviet). That latter type almost instinctively made sense to me and often felt like family. This is hardly a scientific observation, but this has been my consistent personal experience].
There is a very high likelihood that Israel will succeed in triggering a US attack on Iran. If/when that happens, this will trigger a political crisis inside Russia because the space for the current political ambiguities will be dramatically reduced. On moral and on pragmatic grounds, Russia will have to decide whether she can afford to be a bystander or not. This will not be an easy choice as their shall be no consensus on what to do inside the ruling elites. But the stakes will be too high and the consequences of inaction prohibitive. My hope is that a major military conflict will result in a sharp increase of the power and influence of the military “lobby” inside the Kremlin. Eventually and inevitably, the issue of Israel and Zionism will have to be revisited and the pro-Israeli lobby inside Russia dealt with, lest Russia follow the same path to self-destruction as the US. For this reason the concept of “true sovereignization” is the one patriotic slogan/goal that Eurasian Sovereignists must continue to promote (regardless of the actual terminology used) because it points towards the real problems in Russian internal and foreign policies which must be addressed and resolved. This will be a long and difficult process, with victories and setbacks. We better get used to the idea that what happened in the past couple of weeks will happen again in the future.

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